David Ancell's Virtual Home

The Weight of Sin, and the Truth of Purgatory

  /   Wednesday, November 16, 2016   /   Comments(0)

In my last article, I wrote about the need to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory who are undergoing immense suffering. However, some people who may have read this don’t believe in Purgatory. If you don’t, I would invite you to take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:15 if you need a Scriptural reference. Catholics also have 2 Maccabees 12:46 as a reference, but Luther and others removed this from the Bible that Protestants now use.

Think about this … do you know yourself to be a sinner? Will you die still a sinner? Will you sin once you reach Heaven? Most of us will die a sinner, but we will no longer sin in Heaven. What changed, and how did it change? We know that Jesus paid the price for our redemption, but we know that, upon becoming a Christian, our faults do not immediately disappear. We have to struggle against them to grow in holiness. If the work isn’t finished here, wouldn’t God need to finish it before we could be in his presence? If God doesn’t, except in extraordinary cases, change us in an instant in this life, isn’t it reasonable to believe that any purification done would also entail some process?

Perhaps you may wonder why it matters to God. Many of us have heard people tell us not to worry about the law because it is love, which they rarely define, that matters. Are we Catholics so obsessed with sin that we imagine that God takes pleasure in handing out pain and punishment for every sin? No, we know that God takes great pleasure in showing his mercy, and Purgatory is not just a part of God’s justice, but also very much a part of his mercy.

It is important to understand in this that nothing about God is arbitrary. God created this world, and he is fit to rule it. He knows everything about his creation and wants what is best for us all. The laws of God are not some randomly decided precepts but are instead the key to our happiness and the happiness of others by living in the world as God created it to be lived in. They just seem like an imposition to us at times because we have a fallen nature. The lie that God wants to arbitrarily restrict us has worked for Satan for so long that he has never had to come up with another one.

Because of this, sin is not just the breaking of some arbitrary law. Sin is real, and it has real effects whether we can immediately perceive them or not. Some we can perceive. If I take a baseball bat and break someone’s window, that person has a broken window in need of repair. If I steal money from someone, that person is deprived of some of his or her money. Even if I am forgiven, there is still a broken window in need or repair and/or money that someone is missing. This will be true of any sin.

The stain left in our soul and the demands of justice can be taken care of in this life. They need to be. Our sins, being real, create a distance between us and God. God wants to completely remove them from us and let us be free of that distance so that we can be in his presence.  He is all good and all holy, and nothing impure can be in his presence.  If he left us with our impurities, there would forever be a distance between us and him.

As for the demands of justice, if God simply let them go, it would be for him to say that he shows mercy to the sinner but isn’t concerned about the victim. In fact, in the case of theft, restitution is required for forgiveness. Of course, the victim may excuse the sinner from restitution, which is essentially an indulgence. However, even one who forgives has the right to expect repayment of what is owed. There is still a temporal punishment merited with every venial sin.  If you don’t believe this, then do you believe that every criminal, after having sought God’s forgiveness, should be immediately released from prison?

Therefore, Purgatory is not some cruelty. There is no cruelty in God. It is the merciful means of completely freeing the sinner from all stain of the sins committed. God makes us clean and holy and able to forever live in the beatific vision. However, Purgatory is not our goal in this life. We need to do penance here and now, and God will not only cleanse us, but he will increase the grace in our soul. It is possible to die in such a state of union with God as to bypass Purgatory. However, as long as we die in the state of sanctifying grace, we are assured of our salvation, and God will make sure we are ready for Heaven.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Doctrine


Please Don’t Say This When I Die

  /   Sunday, November 06, 2016   /   Comments(0)

Death is never a pleasant subject. It was not part of God’s original plan for the human race, but it came into the world because of the sin of our first parents. When someone dies, it’s only natural to look to give or receive some consolation in light of this terrible reality. However, I don’t believe in trying to give comfort by compromising the truth.

November is the month of remembrance for the faithful departed in the Catholic Church. The first day is All Saints’ Day. The second day is All Souls’ Day. Often times, when someone dies, people say “He is not suffering anymore.” or “He is at peace.” This is especially tempting when a loved one has suffered a long illness. I ask that you please do not say these things if you are still here and learn of my death or are at my funeral. You may be doing me a great disservice.

I’d be afraid to meet someone who would not hope that I would be saved and be with Our Lord. It is a real possibility that I might not be. If that’s the case there is nothing you can do. However, the best thing to do is hope for the salvation of those who have left this world but realize that they may have to undergo their final purification in Purgatory before being admitted to Heaven. In fact, the primary purpose of a funeral Mass is to offer the Eucharist for the soul of the departed.

The souls in Purgatory are in fact suffering more than the worst suffering in earth. The magnitude of all sins committed and graces spurned by them is seen very clearly at this point. However, the Church teaches us that the purifying fire is altogether different from the punishment of the damned. In fact, such souls, though suffering, will never experience the punishment of the damned. Once a soul is in Purgatory, he or she has avoided Hell forever. There is nowhere to go from there but to Heaven. This is why we refer to the souls in Purgatory as holy souls.

Although I would love to be one of the souls who can go directly to Heaven, there’s a good chance I will need your prayers and other offerings for my soul. Your other departed friends and family will appreciate the same. It will mean far more to them than merely trying to comfort yourself with thoughts or statements that they are not suffering. It will mean more to you, too. After all, do you think that those whom you helped will forget you once they reach Heaven (or even before)? No way! You will have gained a grateful and powerful intercession for yourself before Our Lord. So, take the opportunity to pray for the faithful departed, and help them to reach the place where there truly is no more suffering and no more tears.

Category: Cathechesis, Doctrine, Spirituality, Uncategorized


Reflections on Young Adult Ministry, Part 1

  /   Sunday, August 17, 2014   /   Comment(1)

Previously, I wrote a reflection on being a Catholic young adult.  Today, as I had mentioned, I want to write on Catholic young adult ministry.  I’m not so much writing as an “expert” but as a participant in some young adult ministry who has observed the needs around him and knows what he would like to see.  I’ve seen a ministry that was strictly catechetical and one that did nothing but social activities.  There were a few in which I was little more than an occasional participant, and a couple in which I spent a considerable amount of time doing work.  I was the webmaster for the Frassati Society of Memphis which disbanded in 2006. I want to write about my own suggestions as to what is needed, but first, I want to tackle some wrong ideas that I’ve seen circulating.

Should there be young adult ministry?

One of the hosts of a podcast that I have otherwise enjoyed actually said that it is impossible to really have a young adult ministry.  The lives of young adults, in his opinion, were just too diverse to have a ministry dedicated to such a group of people.  They are in just too many different states of life.

He has a point that there is quite a bit of variation on the state of life of young adults.  Some are married, and some even have children.  Some may still be in school, but, in my opinion, unless they are older than most other students or are not in school full-time, a good campus ministry may serve them better.  Some may have graduated college and are working in a profession.  There are others who have no idea what to do with their lives.  Some may have, quite honestly, made a pretty big mess of things.

However, there are two reasons why I think that we still have a need for young adult ministry.  First, there are some common needs of people in that age group.  There is a need for formation, for one thing, as well as a sense of community and belonging.  Second, people in different circumstances can support each other and be witnesses to each other.  The married can be an example of Christian marriage to the single people.  The people who are in their professions may be of help to people trying to find their place in the world.  It just takes a good community of people dedicated to Christian charity (and to not becoming a cliche).

With that being said, chances are most of the people who participate in the young adult ministry will be younger and single.  I’ve seen a ministry that was able to integrate married couples for a short time, but, once they have children, it has been very difficult for those to remain (including my wife and I).  Often the people most in need of the ministry are the people who are out of college, most likely working, but aren’t yet married or committed to another vocation.  It’s actually quite an unnatural state, but there are many reasons why someone may be in that state.  For me, a little more than ten years passed between graduation from pharmacy school and getting married.

It seems that people in the Church have a hard time figuring out how to reach and involve people in that state.  This time can either be spent in selfishness or as a time of service and spiritual preparation for one’s vocation.  Young adult ministry, when done right, can really give people in this state a sense of mission.

Group vs. ministry

When I first went to young adult activities where I lived right after graduation from pharmacy school, the local diocese had formed a young adult committee.  They had gone to some conference where some supposed expert told them that they need to make it clear that they don’t have a young adult “group” but a “ministry.”  Apparently, the problem with the idea of a “group” is that it implied membership and commitment.

My concern is not so much with whether someone says they have a “group” or a “ministry.”  I tend to regard those things a semantical games.  Membership and commitment, on the other hand, are essential for a successful ministry.  You definitely have to have a committed core group to run the ministry.  If people are expected to grow in their faith, they will need to commit to doing so.   In fact, lack of commitment has been the major reason for the failure of ministries that I have been involved in.  Granted, you can’t expect everyone to be ready to dive in right at first, but having a free for all with no one committed won’t get anyone anywhere.  Besides, Jesus himself requires a total commitment of our lives.  This is the a Gospel outreach that we are talking about!  Saying that you can’t expect commitment can easily suggest that Christ and his Church aren’t being taken seriously.

Membership is also essential to building a community and a sense of belonging that is so necessary for people who otherwise might not know how to find their place in the Church.  The key is to make sure it avoids becoming a cliche or a closed group that doesn’t reach out to others, or, worse yet, doesn’t really welcome new people.  Let people come and see what the group has to offer, and, be ready to have them register to be a member after they have been.

But we already do young adult ministry in things like marriage preparation, etc.

Yes, it is true that marriage preparation or baptismal preparation, you are working with young adults, but what about people who aren’t about to get married or have a child.  Also, is this really the time when you are going to catechize someone?  If someone is looking to get married and is just then being formed in what Christian marriage is, it means that the person went through years of their life, dated, and selected someone to marry without having really understood how their marriage is part of their Christian mission.

The preparation better start before someone is even dating, or you are already really late in the process.  Someone receiving the formation during the years where they are likely to be trying to meet the person they wish to marry will be in a much better position to know what to look for and what to work towards and will be better able to enter into a solid Christian marriage.  Take a look at this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family. It talks about remote, proximate, and immediate preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage, and I wish this was how things were done.

Next time:  I’ll give my suggestions for good, solid young adult ministry.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic


Confession

  /   Sunday, August 28, 2011   /   Comments(0)

Recently, I was in the Confession line at a very large parish.  Well, actually, I wasn’t really in line.  There wasn’t one.  This parish has only a thirty-minute time period for Confession, and I found out why.  After one more person, there was no one left.

As much as I hear about no one going to Confession anymore, I don’t find it to be completely true.  I was actually surprised by what I saw at this particular parish, but then again, there are other signs that something isn’t quite right.  At my parish, there are often long lines for Confession.

Regular Confession is one of the greatest things we can do for our walk with God.  When we examine our conscience, we recognize how our lives are not in line with what God wants.  We have to admit that to the priest.  When we receive absolution, we not only receive forgiveness of our sins, but powerful grace to help us to avoid sin in the future.

It doesn’t end there, though. As we get closer to God, we learn more and more how we are falling short.  We bring those to the sacrament, and more grace is poured forth.  More and more of what is not of God is stripped away , or at least we get a second chance to work on what we weren’t able to accomplish since our last Confession.

It’s sad to see a large parish in which people are not taking advantage of this.  There is great grace available.  All one needs is a sorrow for sin and a resolve not to commit those same sins again. If we do fall in to the sin again, go back to Confession and try again.  God is ready to take us back and give us the grace.  Take advantage of it.

Your sorrow doesn’t have to be some totally altruistic motive either.  Even sorrow for sin because of fear of Hell is enough to receive the grace of the sacrament.  After all, Hell is separation from God, and if you don’t want to go there, you don’t want to be separated from God.  You will either go to Confession or Hell, so go to Confession.  Of course, you will want to get to where you have a pure love of God, but this is much more easily accomplished when God has forgiven your sins.  Then, there is not eternal punishment to fear.  So, let God give you the grace he so badly wants to give you.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Spirituality


Holy Spirit or a Very Unholy Spirit

  /   Saturday, June 14, 2003   /   Comments(0)

This is my latest entry in a dissent and faithfulness forum on Busted Halo:

I would caution anyone who wishes to say that “differing views expresses” are no more than a “diversity of opinion.” Indeed, I get a sense that there has been a denial of the existence of true evil in the world. Let us not forget that the Devil is a gentleman. He did not threaten Eve and force her to commit an act of violence. Instead, he told her how great the forbidden fruit was. A mistaken notion of compassion that drives some away from certain teachings could well be attributed to the same source.

Even God cannot contradict himself. He is omnipresent in all times, and therefore cannot be subject to change. To believe such is not to put him in our box but rather to “limit” him to what he himself has told us of himself. How can such an all-powerful God be powerless to create timeless truth?

Many believe false teachings, but may not be held morally accountable. However, in many cases there was someone who was supposed to teach them who will be held accountable. If a priest, bishop, CCD teacher, parent, or other person placed in charge of formation does not teach the truth, then such a person will be held accountable. Some have deliberately rejected what God has told them. St. Paul wrote about them in 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

The important thing to understand is that we are not dealing with mere opinions but with things revealed by God. To have faith is to believe those truths. When we are given a message contrary to revealed truth, we have the assurance that it is not the Holy Spirit speaking but a very unholy spirit. God has given us that assurance. Let us be thankful for the gift, even when it is difficult to accept.

Category: Cathechesis, Catholic, Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Response


           



David's Pages

RSS Feed
Atom Feed

Archives